The People vs. Kuli Roberts
With Twitter and Facebook abuzz, Twanji Kalula weighs in on that oh-so controversial column.
The always-crazy Kuli Roberts is in rapidly boiling water this week, after her scathing column on coloured women in the latest edition of the Sunday World.
I must confess; I like Kuli Roberts. A couple of years back, I was driving between Jo'burg and Hartbeespoort dam on a Sunday morning, and we stopped at a superette to stock up on snacks. My friends were horrified as I grabbed and paid for a copy of the Sunday World. They were even more horrified when I flipped through the trashy tabloid in search of her Bitch’s Brew column.
Kuli makes me uncomfortable
There’s something I find intriguing about people like Kuli. I was instantly drawn to her loud, brash nature. She seems to charge through life like a bull in a china shop. Her self-deprecating column was always over-the-top and ridiculous, ranging from the totally taboo to the downright ridiculous.
It often left me feeling rather uncomfortable. I liked the discomfort. Being somewhat reserved and overcautious, I often wish I could be one of those people who really don’t care.
Having grown up in an environment where racial differences were often very pronounced, it was comfortably progressive to see someone take the Mickey out of some of South Africa’s most sordid stereotypes and social constructions.
Over the last few years I have laughed at the various crass and outlandish caricatures she has painted of South Africans, and truly fallen in love with the people who make up this country.
It was a long time coming
Each week Kuli has slammed men, women, philanderers, gold diggers, black people, white people, European tourists, her bi-racial children, shopaholics, xenophobic South Africans, politicians, the disabled etc. No one has escaped her wrath.
I am actually surprised that disgruntled readers haven’t vented their anger in such a fashion before. Read out of context, without an understanding of who Kuli is, all her columns read like hate speech manifestos. For years each column published and TV show aired has yielded numerous complaints.
Kuli is a comic
She has been called a socialite, TV personality and a journalist, but I see Kuli as a comic. Like all jesters, she has always intentionally been the ultimate victim of her caustic tongue. She doesn’t take herself seriously, and thrives on being perceived as shocking.
In doing so she’s really saying, “Laugh at me. Laugh with me.” Through reading Bitch’s Brew almost religiously I have really learnt to laugh at myself and all the characters I encounter daily. It reminds me why it’s a great time to be South African, and how much our lives have changed in a short space of time.
I have observed Kuli at a number of events over the years. What surprised me most is that this woman who has just been labelled ‘racist’ and ‘narrow-minded’ is probably one of the most open people I have witnessed.
Yes, she takes pleasure in shocking those around her with outrageous attention-seeking behaviour and rude remarks, but has mad love for people from all walks of life. I have seen her embrace strangers of all backgrounds. A racist? Probably not.
That said - her comments were pretty outrageous
I can totally understand why a huge chunk of the population took great offense. Everything has its time and place, and this time Kuli miscalculated it. We just weren’t ready to admit her to the league of the Leon Schuster-types who smear shoe polish on their faces, don accents and ‘act’ out offensive stereotypes.
Her column included harsh judgement on coloured women like, "they have no front teeth and eat fish like they are trying to deplete the ocean" and "you will always be assured of a large family as many of these girls breed as if Allan Boesak sent them on a mission to increase the coloured race."
In truth she’s probably been writing this type of column for too long, has run out of steam and got careless. She tried too hard to shock us this time, and in doing so gave room for people to make a political example out of her. It’s a pity it ended like this.
For those of you who are truly offended by her comments, I was always taught to evaluate the source and intention of an insult before taking offense. In my books, taking anything Kuli says remotely seriously is like believing that Pinky and the Brain will actually take over the world someday. It’s time that we learnt to take ourselves a little less seriously.